Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

TOP STORY >> Cabot says no to road project

BY JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Council rejects plan to pay for road that would ease downtown congestion.

The road under construction mostly in Lonoke County that would take some of the traffic heading to Wal-Mart out of downtown Cabot will not be completed this year. That’s because a proposed plan to get the city to pay for part of the construction fell through Monday night with the failure of a proposed city ordinance.

“I said all along that I wouldn’t be able to complete it this year unless the city helped. I don’t have any choice now but to wait until next year when the next ad-ministration takes over,” said Lonoke County Judge Charlie Trout-man, who has paid for the road construction so far out of his road and bridge fund.

The failed ordinance would have provided $200,000 to help with construction of the new road in exchange for the county replacing seven narrow bridges on First Street with round culverts. Although the council vote was 4-3 to pass the ordinance, five were needed. But even if it had passed, Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh had vowed to veto it and it would have taken six to override the veto.

The discussion about the ordinance was often heated and the reasons to vote it down were numerous.

The mayor and Alderman David Polantz said the culverts wouldn’t carry any more water than the bridges and a temporary fix like the culverts would do nothing to help with future growth.

The culverts would be wider than the bridges, but no guardrails or sidewalks were included in the $75,000 price the county judge gave or the $82,500 it was increased to after an engineering report said one bridge would require a larger culvert and one would require several.

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say that $82,500 is going to put it back maybe to where it is now. We’re not making any improvement,” Stumbaugh said.

Polantz pointed out that none of the numbers quoted over the three months the ordinance has been before the council have been based on any study showing how much the work would cost.

Troutman wanted to replace the bridges with culverts for $75,000 instead of the $750,000 the city would pay for box culverts, he said. But no one really knows how much any of the work would cost.

All the numbers were “made up,” Polantz said. “We’re sitting here wasting council time. We might as well be playing cards.”
City Engineer Gail Mainard agreed with Polantz. “Both sides are just wild guesses,” he said.

Alderman David Cook brought another issue to the table. He wanted to know when and how it was decided that the bridges needed to be replaced and who decided they were the top priority for the $2 million in bond money that was included for streets when voters approved last year the extension of a one-cent city sales tax.

The answer from the mayor was that the council decided. Cook said he wanted to put the bridges “on the back burner” and look at other work that needs to be done.

Polantz, Cook and Jerry Stephens voted against the ordinance that was sponsored by Alderman Odis Waymack and Tom Armstrong. In addition to the sponsors, James Glenn and Bob Duke voted for it.

The mayor said from the time the ordinance was introduced in March that no one knew if the culverts would even be adequate for the water that would flow through them. To answer that question, Waymack hired professional engineer Adam Whitlow to conduct a flow study, for which he has been billed $2,300.

Waymack said after the vote that he hopes it wasn’t for nothing. Stumbaugh is running for Con-gress and the next mayor might be more receptive, he said, adding, “It’s money I made for serving on the city council, so I might as well spend it for the good of the city.”

Troutman, who has attended most of the council meetings since the ordinance was introduced, said he was glad the quorum court meetings he presides over are more reserved.

“The last thing I ever intended to do was get in Cabot city politics,” he said.
“They’ve got problems I don’t need.

“I’ve personally never seen such animosity be-tween a mayor and council. It’s almost like a shouting match between them. I’m certainly glad I don’t have that.”

In other business, the council passed a resolution authorizing the mayor and city clerk to negotiate for the purchase or lease of the Community Bank building next to city hall.

The bank has offered to sell the building for $1.1 million or lease it for $3,500 a month with the option to buy it in five or 10 years. If the city leases and buys after five years the purchase price would be $890,000. After 10 years of leasing the purchase price would be $678,000.

Stumbaugh told the council that if the administrative offices are moved out of city hall to the bank building, the police department located in the basement would be able to expand.